From recycled plastic using VR (Virtual Reality) eye-testing tech to make affordable health care glasses, Brenda and Geogette are fixing eye issues in Uganda.
In collaboration with RocketHealth last year, the eyewear made by Africans for Africans company, Wazi Vision, offered free eye screening and testing in Uganda as they continue with their mission to change the eyewear industry in Africa.
Aside from providing free glasses for children in need, Wazi design and customize fashionable glasses. Some come in ankara-looking frames as well.
Brenda’s interview with Your Commonwealth: The Youth Perspective in 2019, was one that provided lots of interesting information about the duo’s journey in Uganda:
You are the CEO of Wazi Vision. One of the keys to a business, or a social enterprise, is having a workable idea. How did you come up with the concept for Wazi Vision?
I used to work in one of the big 4 firms as a Business Analyst and I spent over 13 hours a day at my computer – on average. With time, my eyes started to deteriorate, and they hurt a lot, so I needed to get a pair of eyeglasses to help me with that. I had medical insurance at the time, so I thought, well this should be easy! When I got to the optical centre, I was charged $160 for my glasses – and insurance could only cover half.
At the same time, my sisters also needed glasses and as a family, it was very expensive. I wondered if I could feel the pinch, what about many more people who don’t even have formal jobs or insurance? That’s when I got obsessed with trying to understand what makes the glasses so expensive and what we can do to help fix that. I finally figured we could make the frame from plastic, and the rest is history. I quit my job shortly after and decided to focus on this and we have grown and diversified since.
You have been helping to make eye glasses more affordable. Tell us about that?
Since Wazi started, it has reduced the cost of eye care by 80% and provided 6,000 people with affordable eyeglasses. Periodically, we perform eye testing drives in slums and rural areas where we give away free eye glasses to people. The free eye glasses are subsidized in price by sales made to middle income people. Wazi has greatly contributed to an area that is often overlooked,yet it impacts the overall well being of a person – eyesight.
Sometimes as a female founder it’s easy to doubt yourself and your abilities. We need to remember and celebrate our small victories in those moments of doubt so that we do not give up – Brenda Katwesigye
How important has innovation been to Wazi’s success?
Innovation is what Wazi’s prides itself on the most and it has contributed greatly to our success. Wazi is different – innovation is evident in our designs, but also in our technology. Plastic is used for making glasses but it’s not easy to find anyone using recycled plastic in our industry. It’s a complex process and Wazi’s ability to connect recycled plastic to a high-quality product is very innovative. Using this approach has helped us secure our value proposition which is low cost for high quality.
Before Wazi Vision, you were the CEO of InstaHealth, a startup with a mobile application service to help persons access ambulances, doctors and health centres. That company no longer exists. What did you learn from InstaHealth and how has that experience helped you with Wazi Vision?
There were lots of mistakes I made with InstaHealth. One was, we did not quite understand the landscape and were just trying to figure things out – which is okay, but it sucks up all your capital before you can put out a refined product. We thought our solution was the best to solve the problem we were working on but it wasn’t. No one was willing to pay for the service. With Wazi, I tested the product and did a lot of market research and analysis before I launched and that helped to refine everything early enough so when we started, we just hit the ground running.
If you had one piece of advice to give…what would it be?
I would advise social entrepreneurs to not only understand the problem they are solving but to also understand who they are solving it for and design something that fits their context. A lot of copy-paste solutions in other places and countries don’t work in our country and we must be careful to consider the cultural influences on the potential success of our businesses.
Wazi has recently caught the interest of Renew Capital Angels. And without hesitation, the company announced its investment in Wazi last month.
By Elijah Christopher